Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is facing an uphill battle in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, as a legal trend from the 1990s is making it harder to argue for absolute immunity for a sitting president, according to former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
Carroll, a former advice columnist for Elle magazine, accused Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Trump denied the allegations and disparaged Carroll, claiming she was lying and motivated by fame and money. In response, Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump.
The case has been working its way through the courts for years, with Trump’s legal team arguing that he cannot be sued for actions taken while he was president due to absolute immunity. However, Mariotti notes that a trend from the 1990s has shifted the legal landscape, making it harder to argue for absolute immunity.
“Back in the 1990s, there was a belief among legal scholars that the president was entitled to absolute immunity from any lawsuit that arose from the president’s official duties,” Mariotti told CNN. “That trend has been completely reversed. There is no longer an accepted view that the president has absolute immunity.”
Mariotti also noted that a recent decision by the Supreme Court, which allowed a lawsuit against Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to proceed, could make it harder for Trump to argue for absolute immunity.
“There’s a Supreme Court case that just came out that says even the president’s lawyer, who was not the president, doesn’t have absolute immunity,” Mariotti said. “So if the president’s lawyer doesn’t have absolute immunity, how can the president have absolute immunity?”
Despite these challenges, Mariotti notes that Trump’s legal team will likely continue to argue for absolute immunity in the Carroll case.
“The president’s lawyers will continue to argue that he has absolute immunity, but that is a much harder argument to make today than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Mariotti said. “So I think the president’s lawyers are facing an uphill battle.”